Rabbi Steven Weil

IPA Mission to DC

June 16, 2011

As I mentioned last week, I was privileged to serve as Shavuos scholar-in-residence at theYoung Israel of North Beverly Hills, a very warm and gracious community that is currently completing a building project that will better enable them to serve as the hub for the local Jewish population. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to meet with the presidents of three local OU-member shuls, as well as OU West Coast president Dr. Steve Tabak and West Coast NCSY Regional Director Rabbi FE Goldberg. I also had the opportunity to speak at the Nessah Synagogue, a Persian shul that can boast of the largest regular adult attendance in the nation. The mara d’asra, Rabbi Shofet, is a rabbinic scion, whose father served as rabbi of the congregation in Tehran.

Returning from LA, I headed to Washington to join a wonderful group of shul presidents, rabbis and OU Board Members for our annual Mission to Washington, run by the OU’sInstitute for Public Affairs.

The Mission was preceded by an Executive Committee meeting, at which Rabbi Ilan Haber, National Director of the OU’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, JLIC chair Stanley WeinsteinRabbi Akiva and Nataly Weiss of Rutgers JLIC, and students from a dozen campuses shared an enlightening presentation. The JLIC representatives did an exceptional job of communicating JLIC’s goals and methodologies with first-hand flavor.

The Mission program started with a great talk by and candid discussion with Ambassador Michael Oren. From there, we proceeded to meet with White House officials, includingJack Lew, Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, who serves as advisor to President Obama on foreign policy. These officials likewise engaged the OU contingent in sincere and heartfelt discussion. An annual highlight, our Congressional luncheon enabled members of the Mission to meet and hear from close to 20 Senators, as well as two key freshman Congressmen, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC).

I thank Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy, and the entire IPA staff, for providing this important opportunity for our staff, our lay leadership, and our synagogue leadership to hear from, interact with, and express concerns on issues affecting our communities to our elected officials.

More IPA Notes 

The OU issued the following statement addressing the San Francisco ballot initiative that will allow a vote on a proposed law banning circumcision on anyone below eighteen years old:

For centuries, those who persecuted the Jewish People sought to ban brit milah, a central and fundamental Jewish practice. We are confident the people of San Francisco will not join them. We believe the people of San Francisco are bigger and better than this small minded bigotry and we are heartened by the many distinguished leaders and organizations, including leaders of many other faiths, that have publicly condemned this attack on religious liberty.

We believe the proposed local referendum on circumcision is likely illegal; it is surely an affront to all people of good will. If enacted, it will be patently discriminatory against Jews and Muslims and shows none of the progressive tolerance for which San Franciscans pride themselves. We will vigorously challenge this attack on our faith in every manner and method available.

Dr. Simcha Katz, President

Nathan J. Diament, Director of Public Policy

We were also represented in a White House meeting to launch a new “See Something, Say Something” campaign geared towards shuls and schools. Director of Public PolicyNathan Diament joined other communal leaders in a session with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and others at the White House to launch the new partnership between DHS and Jewish community organizations. This marks the first time the governmental security agency has teamed up with a faith-based community to address the threat of terrorism. You can read more about it here.